German Ladies Impress in Levi
By Brian Pinelli
Seeing 2009 World Slalom Champion, Maria Riesch on the podium after World Cup ski races is certainly no surprise, however seeing numerous teammates of hers not too far behind is. On Saturday in Levi, Riesch picked up her sixth career World Cup slalom victory, one of four German ladies to make their way into the top 10.
It was undoubtedly one of the most impressive ski racing performances by Germany in recent history. Maria's younger sister, Susanne, achieved her best-ever World Cup result finishing fourth, 1.33 seconds behind the winner. Young Katharina Duerr also had her first-ever World Cup top ten moving up from ninth after the first run to finish seventh. Fanny Chmelar, 19th after the first run, posted the fifth fastest second run to finish ninth.
The last time that four German ladies finished in the top 10 in a World Cup alpine race was all the way back in 1999. It was in a downhill in St. Anton, Austria.
"It's great for all of us - a start like this is very important for the team," said Susanne Riesch, who also had the fourth fastest second run. "I mean, you train hard all the time, but you don't really know what it's worth on the international level."
"It's a fantastic result for the team and for me after the GS in Sölden, where I couldn't qualify for the second run," said Chmelar, "The race in Levi is good for all of us. We know our slalom team is one of the best in the world."
Chmelar, 24, was second at World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden last season, however the result in Levi was only her second career slalom top ten. Duerr, 20, was the 2007 World Junior Slalom silver medalist. Susanne Riesch posted sixth and seventh place slalom finishes last season, so one could see the potential for what happened on Saturday was clearly there.
By comparison, the traditionally strong Austrian ladies only placed two skiers in the top 10 in Levi. Michaela Kirchgasser was fifth and Marlies Schild, returning from injury, was sixth.
Germany also had a fifth skier scoring World Cup points. 20-year-old Barbara Wirth was 18th after the first run, however dropped to 28th - a respectable result for the young racer.
Considering that the average age of the four German ladies to make the top ten is just over 22-years-of-age, the team's future potential cannot be overstated.
"Indeed we have a very young team. We are pushing each other on the slope and we have a lot of fun together," said Susanne, who will turn 22 in December. "For us the result in Levi is a fantastic verification."
"We have shown our potential already in the last few years," she said. "Remember the World Cup in Spindleruv Mlyn where we had seven racers in the top 30."
"Our young team is one key for the success and the coaches are another," said Chmelar. "Beyond that, if you train with the World Champion and winner of the slalom World Cup, you know how good you are. If I am in touch with Maria, I can compare myself on a really high level."
Maria's triumph on Saturday also marked her 12th career World Cup win, moving her up to fifth all-time among German ladies. She is now just two behind Martina Ertl's 14 - Katja Seizinger leads with 36.
It seems apparent that Maria, who turns 25 next week, will continue to lead her younger teammates to great success, possibly for many years to come.
Fanny Chmelar, GER